Mental health in rural areas: join the Seattle Times for a live discussion

Mental health in rural areas: join the Seattle Times for a live discussion

The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative focused on coverage of mental and behavioral health issues. It is funded by Ballmer Group, a national organization focused on the economic mobility of children and families. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over the work produced by this team.

Mental health care can be hard to come by throughout Washington and even harder in the state’s rural communities, where accessible services and treatment are limited. Only 12% of Washington residents live in an area where they can expect their mental health needs to be met.

Some sparsely populated counties have few or no providers available to see patients. Those with openings may not have the specialty a customer needs.

While the increased number of therapists offering appointments via telehealth, providing care by phone or video, has enabled more people to access mental health services, gaps remain, particularly for people with spotty internet connection. Cultural attitudes in rural areas often discourage seeking outside help.

The Seattle Times Mental Health Project will host a live chat with experts on rural mental health. Join us for an hour-long conversation on Zoom at 1 pm Tuesday, December 20. To register for the free online event, please visit

The event will include speakers from the farming community, reflecting many of the broader mental health barriers facing rural areas. Farmers and farm workers often go without mental health care as stressors increase.

We would love to hear from you.

The mental health project team is listening. We’d love to know what questions you have about mental health and what stories you would suggest we cover.

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They face demanding schedules of almost time-consuming work, and the work, often generational, becomes part of their identity, making it difficult for them to separate their role from the conditions around them.

A 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation report, conducted by Morning Consult, found that 59% of rural adults believe there is some stigma around mental health in the farming community. This rate rises to 63% among farmers and agricultural workers.

For more information about the event, or if you have any questions you’d like the speakers to answer, email

The panelists for the December 20 event are:

Representative Tom Dent represents Washington’s 13th District, which includes Lincoln and Kittitas counties, as well as parts of Grant and Yakima counties. Dent is an advocate for mental health reforms that improve the lives of the mentally ill and help families help their loved ones.

Dr. Phillip Hawley is the Primary Care Behavioral Health Director for the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic. He is a licensed clinical psychologist and has worked in primary care for eight years. Hawley is focused on supporting comprehensive healthcare for patients.

Mandujano Emerald is the Program Manager for the California AgrAbility Program and Network Lead with the Western Regional Agricultural Stress Assistance Program. Both programs are housed at the University of California, Davis. It applies cultural humility practices to provide direct assistance to disabled, injured and ill farmers and farm workers to help them continue to work safely in agriculture and prevent secondary injuries. She encourages farmers and farm workers to take care of their minds and bodies.

Don Mc Moran is the WSU Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator for Skagit County, where he assists farmers and gardeners with their research and extension needs. Its core programming includes cropping and irrigation systems, leadership, farm stress, farm suicide prevention, and outreach to underserved audiences. He grew up on a 2,000 acre diverse potato farm in Mount Vernon.

Paul Nagle-McNaughton is the senior director of Comprehensive Healthcare in Yakima.

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